Harmful Lake Erie algal blooms worsened by power plant pollution

The number of severe algal blooms in Lake Erie will likely double during the next century, according to new research from The Ohio State University.

Although fertilizers from farms played a major part in last year’s record-breaking algae bloom in Lake Erie, climate change is also a driver, reported Noel Aloysius of Ohio State and Hans Paerl of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The two researchers spoke at last month’s meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

Moreover, power plants help create conditions that are conducive for algal blooms, researchers say.

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Multiple factors, including nitrogen availability, may shape toxicity of Lake Erie cyanobacterial blooms

ANN ARBOR—The most detailed genetic study of western Lake Erie’s shifting cyanobacterial communities is yielding new insights into the factors that were at play last August when high levels of a bacterial toxin shut down the drinking water supply to more than 400,000 Toledo-area residents.

The University of Michigan-led study is revealing that as environmental conditions in the lake changed throughout summer 2014, the relative abundance of various cyanobacterial strains shifted in response, altering the bacterial bloom’s toxicity.

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Nitrogen Triggers Extra-Toxic Algal Blooms In Lake Erie

Over the last 20 years, Lake Erie has been heaving up ever-larger blooms of cyanobacteria that are so toxic they shut down Toledo, Ohio’s drinking water system in 2014. Scientists say that a warming climate and farming practices that deliver more soluble phosphorus are driving the blooms, but they can’t explain precisely why certain types of cyanobacteria dominate, and why the blooms sometimes produce toxins and other times don’t. Continue reading